Why Boise Foothills Table Rock Fire Restoration Is Complicated

Jul 11, 2016

Wildlife habitat managers say it’s essential that the area burned by the Table Rock fire in the Boise foothills be restored to prevent invasive species from taking over. The City of Boise already has $100,000 from the Zoo Boise conservation fund for habitat rehabilitation in the burn scar. But the city has very little expertise rehabbing land. A 70-acre fire in the foothills last summer, for example, was mostly on BLM land and the federal agency did most of the restoration work.

The Idaho Fish and Game Department, on the other hand, has a lot of post-fire rehabilitation experience. About 1,000 acres of its land were damaged compared to just 164 acres of city land. But that city money can’t be used on state land.

Krista Muller with Idaho Fish and Game’s Boise River Wildlife Management Area says the state and the city aren’t allowed to exchange funds for this kind of work. She says the two can work in conjunction but they can’t exactly work together. Muller says each must manage rehab efforts on its own land.

Boise Parks and Rec foothills and open space superintendent Sara Arkle says coordinating and paying for the rehabilitation won't be straightforward.

“You know each individual agency is accountable to a different entity,” Arkle says. “We will try and seek opportunities to coordinate restoration strategies and share resources.”

Another complication according to Muller is that the state can’t do rehab on private land, which makes up the biggest chunk of the burned area. The state, she says, can advise land owners but in the end private landowners could choose to do nothing at all.

But the city’s lack of experience may not be an issue after all. Arkle says months before the Table Rock fire, the city had begun the process of hiring a new position to oversee such projects called a foothills restoration specialist. 

“I’m thankful that we had already begun the process to find the right fit before the fire occurred,” Arkle says. “But it definitely put a very fine point on the need.”

Arkle says the job is largely about rehabbing the city’s foothills land for fire prevention and to reverse the advance of invasive species. But she says qualified candidates will also have experience with post-fire restoration. 

Find Adam Cotterell on Twitter @cotterelladam

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